Safety concern raised at Toronto Purolator facility after worker dies

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Safety concern raised at Toronto Purolator facility after worker dies

Machinery inside an Etobicoke Purolator facility where a worker died last week lacked standard safety equipment, according to a federal ministry document obtained by CBC Toronto.

Jim Tilhoff, 58, died on March 7 after getting his arm caught in a machine at the Purolator shipping centre on Vulcan Street in Etobicoke.

The incident occurred around 5 a.m. as Tilhoff, a veteran employee at the facility, was working the overnight shift.

An online fundraising campaign started by Tilhoff's family says he "was killed in an incredibly tragic and horrific workplace accident. He was trying to clear a jam in a conveyor belt at work before he was crushed inside."

"Jimmy was well loved by his friends and family and will be greatly missed."

Ministry investigation

The federal Ministry of Employment, Workplace Development and Labour is conducting an investigation into the incident but cannot provide details of its findings.

However, a "direction to the employer" letter obtained by CBC Toronto indicates that a ministry investigator quickly found that proper safety equipment was not in place on least one conveyor belt.

Dated March 7 and signed by a senior investigator with the ministry, the letter, which is addressed to the Vulcan Street facility, reads:

"The employer failed to ensure that all conveyor belt systems used by employees are guarded as per prescribed standards to prevent access by the employee to the areas of exposure to the hazard during operation or use, which resulted in the danger of an employee coming into contact with, and becoming entangled in, the exposed moving parts of the machinery."

It isn't clear if a safety guard on the conveyor belt Tilhoff was working with would have prevented his death.

The letter also orders Purolator to "take measures to correct the hazard or condition immediately."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Purolator Canada said: "We are extremely saddened by this tragic loss of a member of the Purolator family. As Labour Canada's investigation is still ongoing, we are not able to comment any further at this time."

Employee concerned

A longtime employee of Purolator facility says the fatal accident has left staff at the Etobicoke plant "devastated" and concerned about workplace safety.

"It shouldn't have happened. And there's many other things that shouldn't happen but they do because it's just unsafe," the employee said in an interview.

The employee has worked at the facility for more than 15 years and has requested anonymity out of fear of professional consequences for speaking publicly.

The employee says there are other issues at the facility, including temporary workers not being told to wear safety gloves and overloaded conveyor belts.

"These jams that they have up in the belts will get so intense that there will be freight falling down below on people."

Asked specifically about workplace safety concerns at the Vulcan Street facility, Purolator Canada did not comment, citing the ongoing ministry investigation.

Contact me: trevor.dunn@cbc.ca